For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

2:1.  "And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho.  And they went, and came into an harlot's house, named Rahab, and lodged there."

Having set before us in chapter 1 the necessity of obedience

on the part of those who would enjoy the spiritual blessings portrayed by the milk and honey of Canaan, God now presents in symbolic language the means by which those blessings were first secured for us.  In the context of this chapter therefore, Joshua represents, not the Lord Jesus Christ, but the Father Who sent His Son into the world to die for the remission of men's sins so that they might be fitted to inherit eternal blessings.

Here Christ is portrayed by the two men sent to reconnoiter the land.  There being two of them reminds us that the Christ Who came into the world was the second Person of the Godhead.  He was God the Son, but in assuming humanity He combined in Himself two natures: one human, the other divine, the human being no less perfect than the divine.  He was perfect Man, and at the same time perfect God.  But two is the Biblical number of witness or testimony, so that there being two of them declares that Christ came into the world as the Witness to man's need of a Savior, and of God's love in being willing to provide that Savior in the Person of His own Son.

Shittim means acacias, trees notoriously thorny; but trees are Biblical symbols of men, so that the acacia represents man as an utterly sinful creature.  Joshua's sending the two men out of Shittim therefore, is the symbolic portrait of the Lord Jesus Christ's coming out of the sinful nation Israel to begin His public ministry.  Her sin was greater than that of the nations, for she had rejected truth that hadn't been revealed to them.  Her sin was that of deliberate commission, as it were; theirs, of ignorance.  It is to be noted that the symbolic picture presented in this chapter is not of Christ's incarnation, but of the beginning of His public ministry and His going out to Calvary.  He went out from the midst of the sinful nation, first to witness against their sin, and then to die at their hand.  He went out from what Shittim here represents: a sinful people.

Their going out secretly adds another detail to the symbolic picture.  As no one knew what they were doing, neither did anyone (not even His disciples) know what the Lord was doing when He went out to Calvary.

Jericho meaning place of fragrance, was also known as the city of palm trees, and the palm speaks of righteousness, see Ps 92:12.  Scripture, however, speaks of a fragrance of life, and also of death, see 2 Co 2:16.  Jericho is a picture of the world.  To man it is the fragrance of life, and of righteousness according to man's standards; but to God the smell of death pervades this scene, and all man's vaunted righteousness is as filthy rags in His sight, see Isa 64:6.  Jericho is a very accurate picture of this world.

In connection with their coming into the house of Rahab the harlot, it is to be remembered that while the religious leaders of the nation rejected the Lord, the harlots and publicans (the sinners) received Him, as it is written, "For I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Mt 9:13), and again, "Verily I say unto you ... the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you (the self-righteous Jewish leaders)" (Mt 21:31).  It is this that is being declared symbolically in Rahab's receiving the spies into her house. 

Rahab has two meanings: as a synonym for Egypt it means arrogance, but in the present context it means breadth.  The believers, of whom she is a type, are also associated with breadth, for they have been set free from the confines of their bondage to sin, Satan, and death, and have been brought out into the glorious liberty of the sons of God, possessing His own eternal life.

2:2.  "And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in hither tonight of the children of Israel to search out the country."  

2:3.  "And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country."

Like every evil king in Scripture, this king of Jericho is a type of Satan, the prince of this world; and while certainly we may see in his activity a foreshadowing of the murderous activity of Herod at the time of Christ's birth, the context indicates that what is recorded here points to the activity of Satan particularly in connection with the Lord's public ministry and atoning death.  As the king of Jericho demanded that Rahab deliver up the two spies who had been seen entering her house, so did Satan seek to entice or compel those early believers to renounce their faith in Christ.  He continues that same evil work today.

The statement, "... for they be come to search out all the country," is the symbolic announcement of the truth that Satan knew all too well that Christ's coming was to conquer his (Satan's) kingdom.

2:4.  "And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were:"

2:5.  "And it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went I wot not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them."

Her taking the two spies and hiding them is the symbolic portrait of a sinner trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.  She represents both an individual believer, and the believing remnant of Israel which became the Church.  Her dissimulation may not be taken to justify lying, even to those who are the enemies of Christ, but rather to remind us that believers are all too capable of sinning.  Reception of the new nature doesn't banish the old.  It remains with us, ready to use every opportunity to lead us into sin.

2:6.  "But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof."

The roof of the house was the place where the family went for relaxation from the ordinary cares of the day.  It was also the place where Peter had gone to pray, and where he received the vision of the great sheet let down from heaven, Ac 10:9-12.  The roof or house top, in a good context, therefore represents separation from the things of the world, that spiritual separation unto God making it possible for Him to share His counsel with us, and to teach us His truth.

Another thing which points to good in connection with Rahab's having hidden the two spies on her roof top was the fact that there she had concealed them under stalks of flax which she had arranged in order. Flax is the plant from which linen is produced, and linen is a Biblical symbol of righteousness.  Those stalks arranged "in order" are the typological picture of the consistent righteousness which is produced in the life that is lived in obedience to God's Word.  It is His desire that the truths symbolically associated with Rahab's roof should be made good in the practical experience of every believer.

2:7.  "And the men pursued after them the way to Jordan unto the fords: and as soon as they which pursued after them were gone out, they shut the gate."

The enemies' pursuit of the two Israelites "to Jordan," the river which speaks of death, is the symbolic reminder that the warfare between the flesh and the spirit is life-long.  It will cease only when we enter heaven.  That it can't follow us into heaven is declared in the fact that the pursuers didn't cross the Jordan.

The shutting of the gate behind the pursuers depicts the folly of man in attempting to circumvent the purposes of God.  It is the height of madness to be found numbered amongst His enemies.  When His time came to destroy Jericho He didn't have to slip in through an open gate: He caused the walls of the city to fall!  The knowledge that such a God is ours ought to deliver every believer from anxiety relative to anything, as it is written, "If God be for us who can be against us?" (Ro 8:31).

2:8.  "And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof;"

Since the two men represent the Lord Jesus Christ, a practical lesson being taught in her coming up unto them on the roof before they went asleep, is that we too would be well advised to end each day with time on "the roof," that is, time alone with God.

2:9.  "And she said unto the men, I know that the Lord hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you."

She was convinced that Jehovah was greater than all the other so-called gods, and that none could hope to stand against Him.  She feared Him, as did all the inhabitants of the land, but her fear led her to cast herself upon His mercy, while that of the others led them to fight against Him.  Many a man has been made to tremble (Felix, for example), but the fear that doesn't impel the sinner to cast himself upon God's mercy, will not keep his soul out of hell.  The fear that doesn't lead to repentant faith is worthless.  A truth largely rejected today, however, is that there can be no conversion apart from at least some measure of fear.

2:10.  "For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed."

What she had heard about Jehovah had impressed her with the fact that to contend with Him was futile, and that her only hope of salvation lay in casting herself on His mercy.  The Gospel has done its intended work when it produces the same results in the heart of a sinner, leading to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.  

The Amorites sayers, represent false professors. The city of Sihon was Heshbon meaning device: reason, which speaks clearly of the natural man's schemes and reasoning.  As the people and the city ruled by Sihon the enemy of Israel, they combine to warn believers that false profession and human reasoning or intelligence are the foe of those who are of the household of faith.  The meaning of Sihon sweeping or scraping away is the symbolic warning that the evils portrayed by his people and city are capable of sweeping away, destroying the believers' testimony and their enjoyment of their spiritual inheritance.  As Israel was to make war with this enemy and dispossess him, so are we to actively oppose the spiritual evils they represent.

Og means hearth-cake, and in a good connotation the hearth speaks of humility; and cake, of spiritual food; but since this king is the enemy of Israel, the meaning of his name represents something evil, the hearth pointing to earthiness; and cake, not to wholesome spiritual food, but to false doctrine.   Since he is allied with Sihon who represents the schemes and devices of mere corrupt human wisdom, he appears to portray the earthy nature of that wisdom, in regard to which James says, "This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish" Jas 3:15.

2:11.  "As soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath."

Their hearts might melt, and their courage fail, but at that point only Rahab had the wisdom to seek God's mercy, and by that submission she saved her life; and so is it still: only those who fear God and seek His mercy are saved.

2:12.  "Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the Lord, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father's house, and give me a true token:"

2:13.  "And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death."

As she believed the two men to be the representatives of Jehovah, and accepted their word as His, so must those who would be saved accept as His representatives, and their word as His, those who preach the Biblical Gospel.  Nor may we construe her appeal to her having shown them kindness, as teaching salvation by works.  All of Scripture refutes such lies.  Heb 11:31 declares, "By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace," but James 2:25-26 explains the significance of her good works, "Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?  For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."  Her good works were the evidence of her inward faith, and so is it with every believer.  If the good works are not impelled by faith in Christ as Savior, and as an expression of gratitude for salvation already received in response to that faith, then they are useless, for such a man's faith is in his own works, and not in the Lord Jesus Christ.

This woman had also a concern beyond her own salvation.  She had a deep desire to see her family also saved.  That same desire, and for the souls of all men, ought to characterize everyone who grasps in even the smallest measure, the extent of his own indebtedness to God's grace which is beyond comprehension.

2:14.  "And the men answered her, Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our business.  And it shall be, when the Lord hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee."

The knowledge that these men are a type of Christ, invests with a deeper significance their words "Our life for yours," for that is a summation of the Gospel.  Believers are saved because Christ has given His life for theirs.

Their expressed expectation of returning as conquerors enhances the typological picture, for the Lord Jesus Christ repeatedly emphasized that He would return in power and glory to reign.  As they that night were hunted for their lives, so was He at His first advent; but as they returned to rule, so will He.

2:15.  "Then she let them down by a cord through the window: for her house was upon the town wall, and she dwelt upon the wall."

In this unique mode of departure from the city - through a window, rather than a door, and by means of a scarlet thread (line, rope) - we have the symbolic portrait of the Lord's death.  It too was unique in that he voluntarily laid down His life as a ransom for men's souls, shedding His precious blood (portrayed in the scarlet line) for the remission of their sins.  And their departure by night adds the further symbolic detail that the Lord's departure from this world was also in the context of darkness: the pall that shrouded the earth from the sixth to the ninth hour.

The fact that her house was on the wall, and its being emphasized that "she dwelt upon the wall," combine to declare the ideal position of the believer relative to this world.  He is in it, but he is no longer of it.  He dwells metaphorically on its outer edge, on the wall, as it were, his involvement in its affairs being no more than are absolutely necessary to earn his living, and to be a witness for the Lord Whose return he anticipates with eager hope, for there can be no question that Rahab's remaining days in doomed Jericho were spent in eager expectation of the two men's return to take her out of it.

2:16.  "And she said unto them, Get you to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you; and hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers be returned: and afterward may ye go your way."

Only the spiritually blind will fail to see in this the detail that authenticates the typological picture we have been considering.  Those three days hidden on the mountain represent the three days and nights of the Lord's entombment.

2:17.  "And the men said unto her, We will be blameless of this thine oath which thou hast made us swear."  

2:18.  "Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father's household, home unto thee."

Here we find the assurance that man has responsibility relative to his salvation.  Rahab's life depended on her willingness to believe the men, and to demonstrate her belief by obeying them relative to the scarlet rope, just as on the night of the Passover the life of the firstborn was secured by faith to believe God's word, and to demonstrate that faith by obeying His word relative to the application of the blood in the manner He had prescribed.  Nothing but faith in Christ delivered for my offenses, and raised again for my justification, will save my soul, my obedience being the evidence of my faith.  A lip profession of faith, without an obedient life, doesn't meet the Scriptural criterion of conversion, and he who has only such a profession as his hope of entering heaven should tremble at the thought of meeting God.

The fact of human responsibility is further confirmed by the fact that those of her family who would be saved must come into her house, and clearly only those who also believed the word of the spies as related to them by Rahab, would do so.  Their leaving their own houses and entering hers, demonstrated whether they did in fact believe the men's word.

2:19.  "And it shall be, that whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him."

This confirms that Rahab is a type, not only of the believing remnant of Israel, but also of the Church, for as only those in her house would be saved, so will only those in the Church be saved, entry into the Church being only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.  It is to be noted that the same condition applied on the night of the Passover.  Those within the blood-sheltered houses (types of local churches, each of which is a part of the Church which is Christ's body) were forbidden to go out of the houses until the morning light, their departure in the morning being a type of the rapture of the Church, as is also the removal of those in Rahab's house before the destruction of Jericho. 

2:20.  "And if thou utter this our business, then we will be quit of thine oath which thou hast made us to swear."

The significance of this command is easily read.  Her betrayal of them would have been incontrovertible evidence that she lacked the faith to believe them; but since they are a type of Christ, such unbelief would have been a type or figure of the unbelief that refuses to trust Him as Savior.

2:21.  "And she said, According unto your words, so be it.  And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window."

It is instructive to note that in verse 18 she had been required to bind the scarlet rope in the window only when they came back into the land, but she placed it there the moment they departed, and in this we find the announcement of truth relative to the Lord's return.  As she didn't know the exact time when the men would return to take her out of the doomed city, neither do we know the exact time of the Lord's coming to take His Church out of this doomed world; but since her hope centered on that scarlet rope (symbol of the blood of Christ), she placed it in the window immediately, thus signifying her readiness to leave from the moment they left her house. This is the symbolic portrait of God's ideal for every believer.  We should be ready to leave this world from the first moment we trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.  Sadly, there are many professing Christians who are in no hurry to leave.  Love of this world causes them to secretly hope that the Lord will delay His coming as long as possible so that they will have more time to enjoy its sinful pleasures.  Rahab was not such a believer.  After having the assurance of salvation, her only interest in doomed Jericho was to gather her family into the safety of her house.  He is a wise man who reflects her attitude, and emulates her conduct.

2:22.  "And they went, and came unto the mountain, and abode there three days, until the pursuers were returned: and the pursuers sought them throughout all the way, but found them not."   

As already noted, their hiding on the mountain for three days foreshadows the time the Lord's body lay in the tomb.

2:23.  "So the two men returned, and descended from the mountain, and passed over (the Jordan), and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all things that befell them:"

Since Jordan represents death, their crossing it to come into the land represents Christ's death (when He came into this world it was to die); but this return crossing, then by the same token represents His resurrection, while their coming to Joshua portrays His return to His Father.

2:24.  "And they said unto Joshua, Truly the Lord hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us."  

Their confidence of victory points to the truth that the Lord Jesus Christ, having completed the great work of redemption, is now in heaven while the Father makes preparation for Him to return to earth, not now as the Lamb, but as the mighty Lion of Judah, to vanquish all His foes, and rule the world for His Father's glory in the Millennium.

In concluding our study of this chapter, we should remember that Rahab is a type both of the individual believer, and of the believing remnant in every age, existing in the midst of general apostasy.  As well as being a type of the remnant which became the nucleus of the Church, she symbolizes the believing remnant existing today as the true Church in the midst of apostate Christendom, and also the believing remnant that will exist in the Tribulation era, and that will become the new nation Israel which will pass into the Millennium and be chief among the nations.  We mention this in anticipation of our study of chapter six where her removal from the city prior to its destruction is very clearly a type of the rapture of the Church before the Tribulation begins.

[Joshua 3]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
2000-2005 James Melough